Brownstown school officials discuss COVID-19 protocols

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As some schools have implemented mask mandates and some have had to switch to virtual learning due to high rates of COVID-19 and quarantines, one local district isn’t ready to make any changes yet.

During a recent special meeting, Superintendent Tim Taylor and the Brownstown Central Community School Corp. board of school trustees spent time discussing the current situation.

At that point, 15 of the corporation’s 1,466 students and four staff members had tested positive for the virus. Among students, that’s a 1.02% positivity rate.

In total, 181 students (12.3%) were out of school due to a positive test or quarantined for symptoms or being a close contact, and 144 of them are expected to return to school this week.

“Of those kids that are quarantined, I would like to see when they return how many of those actually are positive cases where we can see it was transmitted in from another student,” Taylor said. “Currently, of the 15 that we have, one of them had been transmitted within schools.”

Last school year, Taylor said the transmission rate in schools was very low, but students and staff were wearing face masks.

While school corporations around the country differ on protocols, contact tracing and mask wearing, Taylor said Brownstown is following Indiana State Department of Health rules.

“This has turned into a complete political football of ‘My side wants to do this way or that way,’” he said. “Our side wants to do what’s best for kids in our corporation, no matter what the politics are. I don’t know what’s wrong, right in that, and I definitely don’t want us to make a wrong decision. I don’t want us to compromise students in any way, shape or form.”

During a recent meeting with Jackson County Health Officer Dr. Christopher Bunce and Seymour Community School Corp. officials, Taylor said they were encouraged to mask up.

Some people, though, aren’t going to go for that right now and it’s a “hard sell,” Taylor said.

“It’s just something that I think we need to continue to monitor,” he said. “I think we need to play it by ear right now and stay where we’re at, but we need to be aware.”

The administration office and some of the school board members have received calls from parents, most saying they aren’t in favor of a mask mandate.

“They just want their kids in school,” Trustee Clayton Beard said.

Taylor said it might be beneficial for the corporation to share information for parents and students.

On Friday, he posted this on the Brownstown Schools Facebook page: “Students may avoid being quarantined as a close contact by properly wearing a mask and maintaining a social distance of 3 feet. Those 12 years of age and older may avoid quarantining if fully vaccinated.”

Board President Scott Shade said educating students, teachers and parents is crucial.

“Our job is to try to keep the schools open and ensure kids are safe,” he said.

“This is important and difficult for all of us because we all want to do the right thing and because we all care about our kids and we all care about our community. It’s on our minds as it is yours and as a community,” Taylor said. “I really think our best choice right now is let’s see what happens with these kids that are out now.”